;

Going Postal

Oct
28


So, within the space of three days (three pickups), I shipped out about 50 boxes of mostly apple butter along with some various pear pints. If you’re not experienced with shipping items in glass, it’s always a good idea to start with a bulk venture. (Ha.) Based on the feedback I’ve had so far, which is from the first two shipments, it appears that about 10 percent of the boxes arrived with at least one broken jar. If this has happened to you, please let me know and I will promptly refund you without question.


I relied on bubble wrap in the first two shipments. I ran out of bubble wrap and some jars in the third shipment were wrapped in ye old-fashioned newspaper, so I’m interested to find out how they did in comparison to the bubble wrapped packages. Boxes from the third shipment will be finding their forever homes on Monday or Tuesday. Please don’t feel bad to let me know as I’m taking this as an educational experience! After all, I want to do this again, so I need packing feedback. Unfortunately, since I shipped so many boxes in such a short space of time, I didn’t have a chance to learn anything until it was over, but I can learn for the next endeavor. In fact, I’m planning to make candles and soap before the holidays. (Candles, of course, come in glass.) And next year, I want to make even more apple butter.

On the upside, all the feedback on what was inside the jars is enthusiastic. A few of the comments I’ve received on my apple butter: “I had to slap myself to make myself stop before the jar was empty!” “It is fantastic, it was worth the sponsorship for your kitchen.” And more like that, which was encouraging. And this one: “Good packing job.” (She didn’t have any broken jars, so I appreciated that, but had to laugh, too.)

And also: “I fear you haven’t made much $ for all your efforts.” THAT is true. (And aside from refunds.) I make my apple butter starting with 100 percent fresh local West Virginia apples from the farmers market. I simmer it long and slow, I don’t stint on the spices, and I add raisins and whiskey for more flavor. When you take in the cost of jars, apples, sugar, spices, raisins, whiskey, labels, bubble wrap, and tape, there’s not much profit in it at $5/pint, and when you include the time/labor, there’s none. (Counting refunds, I may end up at a loss–some learning experiences are rougher than others!)

HOWEVER. I enjoy doing it, which is why I do it.

HOWEVER. I could spend that time doing something else to earn money (one-woman operation here), and I can’t keep doing it for $5/pint. The “apple butter market” in this area is $6 to $7 per pint for plain apple butter. Generally, apple butter is sold by church or community groups. Some stint on the spices, some do a fantastic job, most don’t actually can it in a boiling water bath, and I’ve “heard tell” that some groups (gasp) cut corners by using bulk-size canned applesauce from Sam’s. My apple butter will always be made with real West Virginia apples, simmered long and slow, plenty of spices, with raisins and whiskey. I will probably sell it next fall for $8/pint, which may cut my orders, but I have to be realistic about the time, labor, and cost going into each jar–and I’m not willing to cut any corners on the quality or ingredients.

Side note about the canning: Apple butter is sort of a “grandfathered” product that, to my knowledge, is the only product with a blessing from the USDA to be sold “open kettle” canned, meaning not canned in a boiling water bath–simply, hot apple butter spooned into hot jars, put the lid on, you’re done. Apple butter has a high sugar content (as do almost all jams, butters, jellies, etc.), but I figure the main reason apple butter gets this special consideration is due to tradition. I do can my apple butter in a boiling water bath, though, for the higher level of preservation security. Whether or not it’s actually canned, though, is not as big of a deal, perhaps, as whether or not genuine fresh apples are inside the jar (rather than applesauce from Sam’s). If you’re buying apple butter at a festival, bazaar, etc, ASK that question.

I’ve gotten a number of emails from people whose boxes arrived intact, so it wasn’t a total fail, but I can definitely learn something from this shipping experience and improve, so thank you for the feedback!

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on October 28, 2012  

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13 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 10-28
    8:54
    am

    Mine were wrapped in bubble-wrap and they were all intact….fantastic products. So glad I got to taste them!

  2. 10-28
    10:14
    am

    I make and gift family and friends with fused glass “art.” I’ve learned the hard way that the safest way to ship glass is to double-box it. Wrap the glass in bubble wrap and put it in a small box, then pack the box in “popcorn” in a larger carton. Haven’t lost a piece of glass since I started doing it that way.

  3. 10-28
    11:10
    am

    Mine were wrapped in newspaper with a paper divider. One jar broke. This is just for information purposes, no refund necessary. I just picked out the broken pieces and ate it anyway…I lived and it was YUMMY!

  4. 10-28
    11:18
    am

    Still slapping myself ! Used some of the Whiskey Raisin Apple Butter last nite on a Pork Loin Roast , slathered it on the last 1/2 hour and it was so amazing ! My jars (3) were bubble wrapped and all were fine. I have shipped fragile items , even canned jams & pasta sauces to my daughters , I do the bubble wrap but I line the box with newspaper for extra cushion. I to thought your price was to cheap , will gladly pay $8 for your pints if this batch was any clue as to the goodness of your butters ! At our local farm stand here in northern Illinois , they sale the local canned jams , jellies & butter for $10 – $15 a pint. I have bought a few just to taste & figure out the flavors so I can make my own. I can honestly say yours is the best Apple Butter I have had , other that my late Grandmothers. I made 30 pints last year of apple & pear butter , everyone raves about them , it is a lot of work. I don’t have a Squeezo , I do it all by hand . I think when you love doing it , it comes out even better ! Plan on getting some of your soaps for Christmas gifts also. Keep up the great work , looking forward to canning season next year !

  5. 10-28
    11:23
    am

    I feel your pain, Suzanne! I have been working my fingers to the bone making, selling, wrapping and shipping my handmade soap. I have been questioning myself lately as to whether I’m really making any money since I put so much of my time into it and, like you, I’m a one-woman operation.

    I work my day job, then go home and make soap. Meanwhile, my house and yard are going to rack and ruin. But the extra money it brings in DOES help me make ends meet, so I keep on keeping on.

    Your story about your jars made me laugh because I remember my mom once sent me a jar of pickled corn when I lived in California. I was homesick and she sent it from Kentucky with the best of intentions. But by the time it arrived in California, it had gotten broken. It had passed through a lot of hot areas between KY and CA, and by the time I went to pick it up (I had to sign for it so they wouldn’t leave it at my door), it smelled horrendous!

    I’m sorry I missed seeing you post about selling the apple butter, or I would have ordered some myself. I’m sure it’s delicious and I bet you’ll have this shipping thing down pat by the time you do this again.

    Linda
    Huntington, WV

  6. 10-28
    11:50
    am

    I am still enjoying the delicious apple butter which I purchased from you. Had some on my biscuit this morning. Yum!

    I am afraid to admit, I forgot to slap myself with the Maple Apple Preserves – that pint went much too quickly!

  7. 10-28
    12:45
    pm

    I did the next best thing, I made a nice batch of Whiskey-Raisin apple butter from your recipe. Oh my, delicious! I water-bathed it to be on the safe side, and the lovely little half-pint jars will be much of my Christmas gift selections.

    Love your blog, the comments, your answers, your stories, all of it. You are my new hero, and I’m 77!

    Margaret in Bend, OR

  8. 10-28
    4:22
    pm

    I work for a UPS store, maybe I can help with general information. With UPS, as I suppose with USPS and other delivery services, once the driver picks the item up (from either your home or a UPS store), he takes it to the local facility, the HUB. The trucks are emptied and the packages hand sorted in the process. They go on conveyer belts to the location in the HUB where they are loaded onto the next truck which takes them to the next HUB. The same process is used until the item is at the HUB local to its final destination. Then it goes on a truck to be delivered. As you can see, it goes through many hands and on many belts depending on how far it has to travel. Sometimes things happen–a fall off of a belt, etc. When packing fragile items or glass, bubble wrap must be used. Some people come into the store with newspaper crumpled up and used as filler, but this is not a packing material. If pressure is put on a box with crumpled newspaper, the paper will not withstand it–it will collapse more. Styro peanuts are made to withstand the weight of boxes stacked on top of one another, or a fall. Once the fragile item is wrapped well in bubble wrap, then it should be suspended in peanuts. This is how we pack fragile items to insure they arrive safely. Just some food for thought. Glad most of the jars arrived safely.

  9. 10-28
    4:32
    pm

    By the way, you can go to your local UPS store and buy peanuts, boxes, bubble wrap–anything you need for packing.

  10. 10-28
    4:52
    pm

    I have used foam boxes that my hubby receives medication in to place jars of jelly and relish with foam dividers and foam on top then inside the mailing boxes.

  11. 10-28
    5:00
    pm

    I have a sneaking suspicion that the occasional damage was not due to your inadequate packaging but rather to the level of frustration present at the various post offices. Low frustration levels=no breakage; high frustration levels=something’s gotta give! I utilize three local P.O.s; two are staffed with pleasant, helpful people, and one has surly staff (the staff changes over the years, but remains surly).

  12. 10-28
    6:50
    pm

    All three bubble-wrapped jars arrived intact in Albuquerque. Two already opened — pear pecan sauce served over vanilla ice cream, and double vanilla pear jam, with butter, on an English muffin. TO. DIE. FOR.

    You done good, girlfriend. :dancingmonster:

  13. 10-29
    1:33
    pm

    Homemade products cannot compete with store bought prices. You just can’t. Most people recognize that and will accept that and make their decision to buy based on some other reason – higher quality (or organic) ingredients, unusual flavors, custom orders, and (to some extent) sentiment. Homemades seem to do well when sold in bundles or with complimentary products (like a gift basket). It’s a good value which is reflected by the fact that it can be marked up a little bit more for actual profit. Good luck. Follow up with your people!

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